Andrew Buck, 37, and a teenager were part of a group of aircraft travelling from Northumberland
Two British men who died in a plane crash in France were on “the trip of a lifetime”, according to the firm which owned the aircraft.
Andrew Buck, 37, and an 18-year-old who has not been named were travelling in a leisure aircraft when it crashed in a valley near Larche on Wednesday.
The plane was part of a group of aircraft which had travelled from an airfield in Northumberland on Sunday and were heading for Malta.
Buck’s sister, Lisa Crowe, confirmed her brother had died, as she launched a crowdfunding appeal to help her parents with the financial burden of his death.
Crowe said on a GoFundMe page: “My parents and I received the incomprehensible news that my little brother Andrew was tragically killed in an accident while flying over the French Alps.”
She said: “My husband Steve and I are beyond grateful for everyone’s kind words and support at this time and I know my parents feel the same.”
Purple Aviation, which owned the plane, said that, contrary to initial reports, the incident did not involve a mid-air collision. It said a second plane crashed during an emergency landing but the pilot walked away unharmed.
In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the firm said: “Purple Aviation extends its deepest sympathies to the families of the two men who died in a tragic accident in the Alps today (Wednesday).
“We can confirm that there was no mid-air collision as described, and that the pilot of the first aircraft to crash walked away from the wreckage unharmed after a well executed forced landing.
“We have been overwhelmed with messages of support throughout the day and would like to thank everyone who has tried to help us.”
The statement said that the men who died were in a plane that was part of a private expedition of five aircraft travelling from Newcastle to Malta.
It said that the expedition was not organised by Purple Aviation but the team included two of its company directors, Richard Pike and Sam Woodgate.
Pike said: “This was a group of experienced pilots and close friends embarking on the trip of a lifetime, which has been planned over the last year.”
He said: “Everyone involved has been devastated by this tragic accident. We’d like to pass on our sincere condolences to the families of those who died. We have lost two brilliant friends today.”
The accident happened over the Maddalena Pass, on France’s border with Italy.
The trip had set out from Eshott Airfield in Northumberland on Sunday and had been travelling in stages, scheduled to reach Malta on Saturday.
Buck was flying an aircraft loaned by Purple Aviation as part of the support network for the trip. The passenger in the plane, who also died, was another close friend, Purple Aviation said.
The firm said that the expedition’s film footage has been handed over to the French authorities investigating the incident.
Olivier Jacob, prefect of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, said: “Today, on Wednesday 24 July 2019, two leisure aircraft registered in England which took off at Saint-Pons airport crashed in a valley near Larche, to the south of Tête de Viraysse, with a person on board the first aircraft and two people on board the second.
“The pilot of the first plane is lightly injured. The two people who were found in the second craft are dead. The victims are British nationals, aged 18 and 37.”
Jacob said French emergency services – including mountain police, a police helicopter, three ambulances and 22 fire crew – attended the scene.